Editor's Introduction, Book Review Issue 2018


[1] Themes of theology and culture run throughout this issue, intersecting specifically in treatments of war, moral injury, climate justice, and faith/life formation for adults and children.

[2] This issue begins with a focus on war.  Ted Peters offers an essay inspired by Kelly Denton-Borhaug’s War Culture, Sacrifice and Salvation. The ethos and institutions of war have penetrated everyday life in the United States, taking the symbols of Christianity and repurposing them for nationalistic ends.  In the process, what Americans consider holy has migrated from the sacred to the secular, from the church to the state.  Peters challenges public theology with the task of discerning U.S. war-culture and constructing a prophetic response. This is a wake up call.

[3] Erv Janssen, M.D. issues another wake-up call.  Reviewing Care for the Sorrowing Soul by Duane Larson and Jeff Zust, Janssen looks at one of the hidden by-products of war –- the moral injury suffered by those who struggle to live with the implications of their military service. Janssen’s review explores the phenomenon of moral injury, which crosses spiritual, emotional, physical and social spectrums.  Examining its causes and effects, he then focuses on the healing process and the necessity of involvement by communities of faith, family and broader society so that veterans can live full lives and make meaningful contributions to the communities to which they have come home.  He closes by asking readers/congregations to consider their roles/responsibilities and to become engaged in healing this important and often invisible trauma.

[4] Hilda Koster turns our attention to climate justice in her review of Kevin O’Brien’s The Violence of Climate Change: Lessons of Resistance from Non-Violent Activists.  The book speaks to persons of relative privilege who feel overwhelmed by the complexity of climate change and their complicity in it.  Identifying climate change as a problem of structural violence, O’Brien posits that we can draw lessons and encouragement from non–violent activists who have focused on other forms of systemic injustice such as racism.  For O’Brien, these exemplars offer not only personal inspiration, but a deep well of resources for addressing ethical dilemmas surrounding climate change such as “personal austerity,” “climate debt,” etc.

[5] Aaron Klink reviews Jason Mahn’s recent book on contemporary culture and Christianity in the United States: Becoming a Christian In Christendom: Radical Discipleship and the Way of the Cross in America’s “Christian” Culture.  Mahn examines the pull of current cultural trends on Christian life.  The obsession with self-fulfillment, the focus on the individual at the expense of communal life, the idolatry of the nation state – these and others can distort Christian practices.  Mahn offers a social and theological analysis in dialogue with Luther, Kierkegaard, Bonhoeffer, Yoder and others.  He advocates discipleship developed in a formational community that asks daily what it means to live a Christian life.  To think critically about cultural issues from a Christian perspective, Mahn commends the theology of the cross -- a resource for continually correcting the church’s self-understanding and for resisting accommodation to state and culture.  A discerning discipleship will not rest in self-fulfillment, but will ask a great deal more of us and might require uncomfortable sacrifice as well.

[6] While Mahn addresses the formation of adult disciples in our current cultural context, Stacy Johnson Myers reviews resources for faith formation in children.  Emphasizing the power of good children’s literature to open a child’s world, she also insists that such books must have theological and biblical integrity and developmental sensitivity.  These qualities abound in the Marvelous Mustard Seed by Levine, Sasso and Meganck.  Grounded in Jesus’ Parable of the Mustard Seed, the book introduces themes such as “imagine what can be… but isn’t…yet.”  Strong illustrations invite children to discover layers of meaning for themselves.  Supplementary notes help adults guide children in exploring the complexities of life and faith.

Nancy Arnison

Book Review Editor


Articles published in the journal reflect the perspectives and thoughts of their authors and not necessarily the theological, ethical, or social stances of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.​



© July/August 2018
​Journal of Lutheran Ethics
Volume 18, Issue 4